Aidan and Nora Dowling, ages 6 and 3, of West Roxbury hold the blessed shamrocks they received after attending the St. Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross with their mother, Meghan Dowling, and younger brother, Brendan. The Dowlings were among the hundreds of worshipers who joined the Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Hennessey to mark the feast day of the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Boston. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy
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SOUTH END -- Worshippers came to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross decked out in an assortment of green attire, golf caps and Irish sweaters at noon on March 17 to celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Catholics of different ethnicities and from all corners of the archdiocese assembled in the cathedral as all-Ireland harp champion Kathleen Guilday performed traditional Irish Airs.
At the front of the cathedral, to the left of the main altar, stood a statue of St. Patrick enshrouded in a bed of shamrocks to be blessed and distributed to worshippers after the Mass. The readings, songs and prayers were proclaimed both in English and in Irish Gaelic.
Central Region Auxilliary Bishop Robert F. Hennessey began the Mass welcoming the dignitaries in attendance including the Irish Minister of State Patrick Carey, the Consul-General of Ireland David Barry, the British’s Consul-General Phil Budden.
Father Kevin J. O’Leary, rector of the cathedral, delivered the homily, emphasizing the miraculous transformation of Patrick’s plight from an enslaved pagan herdsman to a shepherd for the Irish people called by God to, “walk among (them) with the light of the Christian faith.”
He reflected on St. Patrick’s manner of assimilation and evangelization among the Irish population. In particular, he focused on how St. Patrick lived in solidarity with those he was trying to convert.
“Approaching the Irish people as equals, while showing no pretense of superiority, allowed the Irish people to become more receptive to the Christian faith,” Father O’Leary said.
He said St. Patrick’s story is still relevant to the current economic, political and religious circumstances in the archdiocese and the nation now face.
He encouraged all Catholics, “To take up our sin and go and walk amongst the people; to take strength from our roots, our traditions and our faith; and to plant a seed of a renewed Church in the midst of a new world.”
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Hennessey prayed for St. Patrick’s intercession and guidance in the face of today’s challenges.
“And so we ask Patrick again to lead us, to support us with his prayers, to help us learn in our post-modern world the lessons that he learned when alone, unaided and afraid in order that he discover the Lord that became the center of his life and so the center of ours,” he prayed.
Holding his two year-old grandson, Raymond Flynn, former ambassador to the Holy See, said it is always wonderful to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Boston.
“I spent five St. Patrick’s Days in the Vatican with my family and Pope John Paul II. It was a special day and wonderful holy experience, but there is nothing like being back in Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross,” said Flynn.
“My mother and father and my grandparents used to go to church here at the cathedral. So today’s ceremony was wonderful--we have a lot of good memories here,” he said.
“This is where the immigrants built this church with their nickels and dimes; this is where the Catholic faith is so strong--here in Boston,” said Flynn.
David Barry, the Consul General of Ireland, said it was special to be able to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Boston.
“It is a wonderful celebration and the fact that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Boston and our patron saint in Ireland it is a special feeling to have it here,” said Barry.
“There is a more exuberant expression here of St. Patrick’s Day, but that is not surprising,” he said.